Physicians: Keep Complaining About EHRs

Without complainers, there is no incentive to rethink the problem and no one to stumble on an alternative.

My second New Year's resolution is to keep complaining about EHRs and anything else that is an affront to human sensibilities and dignity. As with procrastination, the conventional wisdom is that complaining is bad. But that's the same conventional wisdom that says: EHRs are good, HIPAA is protecting us from the likes of Anthem Blue Cross, and meaningful use actually means something.

Stephen Hawking says: "People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining." But this is because they are busy promoting their own agenda and don't want anyone drawing attention away from it; like W.C. Fields saying "Go away kid, you bother me."

Dennis Prager expressed the other common reason that complaining is disparaged: "Complaining not only ruins everybody else's day, it ruins the complainer's day, too. The more we complain, the more unhappy we get."

Dig a bit deeper and good reasons to complain emerge. Zig Ziglar said, "Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business." There is very little evidence that either the EHR vendors, or the legislators that have forced EHR on us, appreciate this point. Unless EHRs magically improve, there will come a time that they will be abandoned en masse and the blame assigned to the politicians that instigated the nightmare.

No one who was wrongly convicted of a crime would ever stop complaining about their conviction (protesting their innocence). It would be taken as a tacit admission of guilt and the prior complaints would be discounted as a rouse.

Mariana Alessandri says that "complaining is useful..." It is a way of "dealing with our situation creatively." She uses negativity both to change herself - "to release disappointment, anger, and frustration - and more important, to connect with others."

"Just because the topic of conversation is negative rather than positive doesn't mean we are unhappy, and oftentimes the opposite is the case. A funny complaint from the person next to me can quickly lighten my mood, and hers. But the possibility of someone's being a happy complainer gets lost when we equate dissatisfaction with unhappiness," she says.

Complaining can also be a decision-making aid. As one expresses the complaint over and over, the process conjures up many ways in which the situation might be different, and less complaint-worthy. As with our convict, if you stop complaining, it will be taken as a tacit indication that you were guilty of being a crank. Without complainers, there is no incentive to rethink the problem and no one to stumble on an alternative. New ideas often owe their existence to complainers.

So, if your EHR makes your life miserable or interferes with patient care, complain about it long and loud.

"Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953)